Benedict Cumberbatch is the sexiest thing ever in China, because of course he is

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I want to thank the Cumberbitches for continuing to fuel my Cumberobsession by sending me endless amounts of Cumberstories, no matter how weird, inane or crazy. This story is courtesy of one of those Cumberbitches – apparently, Foreign Policy Magazine (a real magazine that usually covers, you guessed it, foreign policy stuff) has an article devoted to Benedict Cumberbatch. Not just Cumberbatch in general – specifically, how our Cumberbatch has become the most obsessed-upon actor in China. Not just obsession though – the Chinese fan-fiction industry is IN LOVE with all things Benedict and all things Sherlock Holmes. I’ll let Foreign Policy explain:

Why is the Chinese Internet obsessed with writing gay Sherlock Holmes fanfiction? In one story published on MTSlash.com, a Chinese Internet forum, “sexual desire coursed through Sherlock’s chest as his heart beat wildly.” In another, Dr. John Watson is a part-time p0rn star; in the first chapter, Sherlock Holmes deduces that his sidekick-to-be became an adult film actor to pay off his student loans from medical school. “You’ve only known me for five minutes,” the indignant Watson protests. “That’s long enough for me to come to a conclusion,” Sherlock responds.

Since 2010, when the BBC television series Sherlock first aired, a fascination with Benedict Cumberbatch, the show’s star, has inspired a new wave of gay romance literature on the Chinese Internet. It’s perhaps not surprising that Sherlock, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, is popular in China — it has received over 24 million views since it first became available on the Chinese video site Sohu TV in March 2011. But in certain corners of the Chinese Internet, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is just as likely to ravage his loyal sidekick Watson, played by Britain’s Martin Freeman, as he is to solve mysteries. “Sherlock’s tongue was like an all-powerful key,” wrote one author of a story told from Watson’s point of view, “Unlocking all the doors of my heart.”

China loves Cumberbatch. According to an Oct. 29 article on the Chinese news site Caijing, the 37-year-old Cumberbatch, whom the Chinese call Curly Fu, “is the reason a new wave of Chinese viewers have turned to British television.” (‘Curly’ describes the star’s hairstyle, while ‘Fu’ is a shortened Chinese transliteration of ‘Holmes.’)

The Caijing article attributes the recent spike in the popularity of British television in China to “the Sherlock effect,” and Cumberbatch’s rising star isn’t limited to the small screen. One journalist with the Beijing-based newspaper Jinghua Times surveying viewers of the 2013 blockbuster sci-fi movie Star Trek Into Darkness found that most had gone to see Curly Fu, a villain they declared “impossible to hate” because they had “never seen a bad guy so handsome before.”

The enthusiasm is most avid on the Internet, where Cumberbatch is an erotic god. In the Baidu Curly Fu Bar, an Internet forum devoted to the star, fans said they loved his hair, voice, height, eyes, physique, poise, nose, the speed at which he talks, and a certain ineffable charisma. (One viewer compared him favorably to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whom he plays in the recent film Fifth Estate, writing that Cumberbatch was “much more handsome.”) Some fans cataloguing his good traits also listed his “cute wife” Watson, whom they call ‘Peanut,’ because the Chinese phoneticization of Watson, huasheng, is a homonym for the legume. Amateur cartoon adaptations of Sherlock and Watson holding hands and photo-shopped images of Cumberbatch and Freeman kissing are available on Chinese websites. On Youku, China’s YouTube, a music video that set clips of Cumberbatch’s Holmes and Freeman’s Watson sharing knowing looks to a Chinese love song has received over 70,000 views.

The Chinese Internet is home to a wealth of slash fiction — danmei in Chinese — a genre that imagines existing fictional characters in romantic same-sex relationships, and a body of work in which Cumberbatch’s Sherlock features prominently. Stories range from the explicit “He Is My Bitch,” about Sherlock and Watson’s sadomasochistic sex life, to the more romantic “I Write You This Letter from a Foreign Land,” in which Watson describes his inner feelings for Sherlock in a diary. There are even novels, like the 39-chapter tome It’s Alright, I’m Here, Sherlock, which describes in great detail the lovers’ long and convoluted path to couplehood.

The Cumberbatch crush isn’t just a Chinese quirk; in October The Atlantic Wire wrote that the actor “holds a strange sway over certain parts of the Internet”… Just as Cumberbatch’s English-speaking fans follow the actor’s work closely and identify themselves as “Cumberbitches,” his Chinese-speaking fans also share information about his new projects and appearances.

What makes his Chinese fans special, though, is that some are risking jail to write him into slash fiction. In early 2011, authorities in China’s inland Henan province arrested Wang Chaoju, the webmaster of the slash fiction website Danmei Novels Online, and charged him with “disseminating obscene content” after finding about 1,200 sexually explicit danmei stories among the tens of thousands on the site. Later that year, Justice Online, a legal news website, labeled slash a “harmful trend,” quoting a psychologist who said the literature “could lead to a deviation of sexual orientation, difficulty interacting in social situations, and even criminal activity.” To avoid punishment, writers and readers of explicit slash often exchange content over email, ensuring the work remains invisible to the wider Internet.

LGBTQ individuals in China still encounter discrimination in the workplace, and the country boasts few openly gay public figures. In China, however, many writers and readers of slash are heterosexual women, who identify themselves as funu — ‘rotten women.’ Why young, often heterosexual women love slash is a rabbit hole of epic proportions, but it’s safe to say that many female Chinese fans of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock find it more enjoyable to imagine him riding off into the sunset with his trusted companion Watson than a female acquaintance.

[From Foreign Policy]

There is so much AMAZING in this story, I don’t even know where to start. I guess it never occurred to me that the Chinese would be as weirdly obsessed with Benedict as Westerners are. I tend to think that the Chinese would lack that certain propensity for… what’s the word? Bizarre, obsessive fandom which is ultimately harmless but is a massive time-suck. The Chinese government shouldn’t worry about Cumby fan-fiction inciting people to “become gay” or whatever – they should worry that people should be working but they’re too busy writing epic poems about Sherlock and Watson’s dangerous and erotic love affair. Oh, Curly Fu. None of us can quit you. Curly Fu is like a one-man United Nations. He will erase borders and we shall anoint him Gay Curly Fu King Of All He Sees. Also: PEANUT. OMG.

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Photos courtesy of WENN, ‘Sherlock’.

 

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100 Responses to “Benedict Cumberbatch is the sexiest thing ever in China, because of course he is”

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  1. eliza says:

    Why am I the only one who thinks this guy looks totally odd? I have tried and tried. I cannot see the hot. I know that is not the popular opinion on here. Help me see it!

  2. lenje says:

    Lololol… the fact that its Foreign Policy magazine that publishes this article makes it even more hilarious and entertaining!

  3. T.fanty says:

    Imprison these people? They should have a flipping PARADE for them. There is nothing about this article I don’t love. Except the whole persecution thing. Some countries SUCK (and then prohibit others from doing so).

  4. Vanderhootchie says:

    Rather nice pictures of him!

  5. MissMary says:

    Rock on, erotic fan fiction writers, rock on.

    Though I do wonder if he’s going to get twitchy about it when interviewed like he did back in S1 when he’d be sure to say “not in a gay way” or other modifiers when asked about the relationship between Sherlock and John being love.

  6. O'Angie says:

    This might be the best Cumby article I’ve ever read. I absolutely love that a writer at FP convinced their editor that they should publish THIS story! I’m guessing multiple people at FP are part of the CumberCollective and have been anxiously waiting to write about him. Great job FP! Oh Curly Fu and Peanut, we love you!

  7. GeeMoney says:

    I read this article this past weekend… I can’t say that I blame the Chinese for being obsessed with Cumby’s wonderfulness!

    Love him!

  8. booboocita says:

    Can I just say how weird it is to read that a respected policy journal that I cited regularly in my research as a poli sci major now features articles about Chinese Curly Fu fanfic?

  9. Naomi says:

    Curly Fu and Peanut. This makes me smile. Oddly I find these names an accurate depiction of their characters.

  10. Abby says:

    Hahah I love this article and Curly Fu is the best name ever. Monday morning made :)

  11. flavia_deluce says:

    If I was poor old Benedict I would be SCARED. I love him, I love all the crazy Sherlock fanfic (like, love love) but when I think about him, the person, the subject of all of this, it’s a liiiiittle scary.

    Off-topic: I’m reading The Lost City of Z and it is so good, and I think Benedict will KILL IT in the lead role. Can’t wait.

  12. Allison says:

    Curly Fu, none of us can quit you.

    I will never be able to forget that. Ever. Warms my heart.

  13. Beth says:

    This is the best thing ever. It made my day. Curly Fu forever.

  14. Gossy says:

    In Asian countries (especially Japan) they absolutely love homosexual stories but in real life they disapprove. Anyway basically this news is nothing new. In Japan yaoi (means gay sex manga) is super popular with TEEN GIRLS and in Korea they like playing with that whole gay idea as well…like there was a drama called Personal Taste with a super popular actor and it was about a guy pretending to be gay to get close to a girl.

  15. Mary says:

    Don’t want to be the partycrasher here, but this is scary. I actually feel sorry for him.

    • lunchcoma says:

      This isn’t really any different than the things that are written elsewhere in the world about all manner of celebrities. I imagine it’s quite uncomfortable, but I don’t find it scary if it’s kept to the relevant fan forums and fiction sites.

      I think it crosses the line when people send those kinds of stories as fanmail, and I’m sure he’s already encountered a few of those.

      • Mary says:

        Oh god, imagine yourself getting gay porn-stories about you and your coworker…I would be slightly freaked out xD I don’t know much about it anyway, I just watched Sherlock. Some people are just a bit too enthusiastic when it comes to bromance.

      • lunchcoma says:

        Oh, I’d be horrified. I can see it being one thing if it’s on the internet and if I know that there’s some odd things out there on Tumbler that I’d rather not see and should avoid the place, but there’s a big difference between that and having it sent to your home. I’m surprised that celebrities with certain fandoms even make a pretense of reading their fanmail.

      • Mary says:

        You’re right, it just breaks through some invisible barrier of privacy…I’ll never understand how people think that their so-called “idols” might like that…when it’s just creepy. To each their own, I guess. But now that a obviously well-regarded magazine (never heard of it, but I’m neither from the US nor from the UK) has written about it…I don’t know, it’s all a bit much I guess. Just keep it on the interwebs xD. And yes, I’m fun at parties.

  16. Felice says:

    When I read this, I did the type of laugh where you know that you shouldn’t be laughing but it’s so funny that you just can’t help it.

    My favorite Japan Cumby story is still him ordering fruit and everyone was so entranced by his hands.

    But after I laughed, I did feel bad. I would say he will cringe when someone tells him about this but after the trainwreck Daily Mail July, I would say he’s able to rub this stuff off really well. He’s too busy to think about stuff like this.

  17. portlandjan says:

    While I agree that he’s not conventionally good looking, that hair and those cheekbones deserve movies and TV shows all to themselves.

  18. Katarina says:

    Benedikt have strong intelligence, poise, charm, humility, kindness, good manners and his ability to converse on any subject, and also one of the most attractive men in the world. People who are writing rude, obviously don’t know much about good manners.

  19. T.Fanty says:

    I will say this: while yes, I concur with the point above about this being a little overwhelming. If I were Curly Fu, I’d be a little freaked out. But, so many people are always in a constant state of freakout about social networking being this terrible, anti-social and destructive thing, but in many ways, this is something to celebrate. Social sites such as these, are facilitating people under a repressive regime to connect, share experiences and articulate a particular erotic ideal in a way that they might not have been able to otherwise. Personally, I don’t really care for fanfic (except for Thornfield, OBVIOUSLY), but what never ceases to amaze me the effort and creativity that goes into this work, and I always think that rather than deride it, we should recognize the fact that it’s bringing people together and allowing healthy and safe explorations of sexuality that might be denied to said group otherwise.

    • LadySlippers says:

      Fanty,

      You are a goddess walking with us mere mortals. I love it when you gets all smarty pants with us. *sigh*

      Although, I’d like to pick a small argument with you. Thornfield is, in fact, real. To illustrate my point, I have copy of Miss Eyre’s autobiography and a copy of that same said autobiography made into a movie. Now, I did not see the Hedgehog Army but my guess is she keeps those under wraps in both the book and movie.

      Plus, in the country where Thornfield stands, they guard my Slipper cousins with police officers!!!! That’s how much they revere us!!! Truly an example of conservation that every country should emulate.

      Please retract your statement concerning Thornfield at once.

      Sincerely,
      LadySlippers

    • Myrto says:

      Great comment. Also, besides bringing people together and exploring sexual fantasies, I have to say that some of the fanfiction on the internet is really really good. Beautifully written, complex characterization and everything (and often hot, very hot). So basically nothing about slash fiction ever surprises me anymore.
      The things that most amazed were that 1) a serious magazine had written about Johnlock fanfiction and 2) that the author of the article was baffled as to why most slash writers were straight women. I mean, what’s so hard to understand??

      • Miss Jupitero says:

        I think of fanfic and fandom in general to be an outgrowth if folklore. People crave stories, and even more crave participation. The modern construct of producers vs passive consumers (and all the proprietary copyright laws that go along with that) is a construct.

      • T.Fanty says:

        It’s such a double-standard. Women-on-women action is a staple of p0rn, but when it’s man-on-man, it’s relegated to the (male) gay arena or marginalized to the dark corners of the interwebz. I think it’s absolutely fine to recognize it as a genre and as a healthy and open expression of female sexuality. I just curse that the only mainstream example of it was Fifty Shades of Shite. We deserve a better representative of our erotica!

      • Myrto says:

        @T.Fanty: Tell me about it. Everytime I happen to mention fanfiction and slash fiction to people who don’t spend a lot of time on the internet, they’re always like “You mean that Fifty Shades of Grey stuff, right? Really? you read that sort of thing?”.
        Sigh.

  20. ambow says:

    I consider myself a casual fan of B.C. since first seeing him in Star Trek and just lately in episodes of Sherlock on Netflix. Can that man act! Love his interviews I have seen on youtube. Such patience and poise. Not classically handsome, but his intelligence, humor, and sweetness shine through and make him such an attractive man. Nothing smug or douchey about him.
    I feel bad for him though with all the weirdness and pressure swirling around him and hope it doesnt harm him.

    all the best Benedict!

  21. LadySlippers says:

    Kaiser & others,

    Did y’all see that Benedict and Dame Edna are involved?!? She calls herself a ‘CumberBundle.’ Hehe ;-)

  22. Jojo says:

    God, this place is like Groundhog Day. Some people fancy him. Some don’t. Pretty much like every person on the planet. Nobody finds everyone attractive. I can’t understand how people aren’t tired of repeating themselves.

  23. EscapedConvent says:

    Well, I must say Curly Fu & this entire subject is f**king hysterical. So wonderfully bizarre.

    & I really think Cumby could not be blamed for being freaked out about this. I’m not sure he should visit China.

  24. chaine says:

    i still think he’s icky, and i still don’t see the attraction, but i like him juuuuuust a little bit better now that i can think of him as “Curly Fu.”

  25. Dena says:

    Oh, whew! I was worried I wouldn’t get a Cumberbatch post for my birthday and I light go into withdrawal (or have to brave tumblr for my fix!)

  26. Chrissy says:

    “Curly Fu is like a one-man United Nations. ” Yes, he is!

  27. pink elephant says:

    This is the first BC story that’s made sense to me. He sets my gaydar off, big-time, but we require our movie (and tv) stars to remain closeted, soooo…

    Glad to know I’m not the only one picking up the undercurrent.

    • Jojo says:

      That’s not what it’s saying. And no, he’s not.

    • lunchcoma says:

      Slash has absolutely nothing to do with the perceived sexual preference of either the actors or the characters. There are people out there who will happily ship characters with inanimate objects.

      • T.fanty says:

        Dammit! Really? So I can’t tell whether Cumberbatch has got the gay by the fact that a bunch of people who live three thousand miles away and have never met him fancy him? My world just stopped making sense.

        *hurls moral compass to the ground in bewildered rage*

      • lunchcoma says:

        Of course he’s not gay! He’s scarfosexual. I wrote fanfiction about it, so it must be true. Why would he need either men or women when he has all those lovely pieces of fabric to handle, anyway?

      • GeeMoney says:

        He is TOTALLY not gay (he has some feminine quirks, but then again, he’s British and foreign guys in my opinion are always a little metro). No gay man would step out of the house wearing some of the stuff he wears in public – and trust me… I’ve spent enough time with the gays to know. Just check out that outfit he wore to the Glastonbury festival… that screams straight man to me.

        I think he tries to look fashionable with the scarves. He’s hit or miss when he wears them. And don’t even get me started on those velvet suits (they should all be burned)… that must be a British guy thing.

        I still love him though. Hey Ben, call me if you need a stylist… I’ll be happy to help!

      • T.fanty says:

        @Lunchcoma,

        I think a scarfosexual sounds exactly right. And what a floozy he is.

  28. Ruth Dunbar says:

    I’ve been lurking around these BC posts for some time now, and I feel like I finally want to throw in my two cents’ worth.

    While I think of myself as a connoisseur of the unconventionally attractive, I wasn’t on board the Cumbertrain at first, either. My first taste of him was in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and, while I didn’t know who he was, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him when he was on screen. It wasn’t a sexual thing, I just couldn’t look away. And then I forgot about him until my mother (who is a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan) turned me on to Sherlock. His portrayal, to quote her, is expert. He’s a wonderful actor and he appears to be quite charming, at least in his interviews. For me, his appeal is this: there are some men out there whom I just want to see naked (Mads Mikkelsen, for example). Just get your clothes off. But Curly Fu here, as I see it, is just a canvas for beautiful things. His charisma, acting ability, the voice (!), and jesus, the way he wears clothes, it’s just mesmerizing to me. I can’t stop looking at him — and now I’ve finally crossed over into the Naughty Cumberzone.

    And I get that not everyone is going to like him, and that’s cool. But I also think there’s room for everyone, for all kinds of male beauty. I just happen to like the stranger looking among us, and it looks like I’m in good company.

  29. allons-y alonso says:

    poor darling Curly Fu – I’m feeling second hand mortification on his behalf.

  30. Thiajoka says:

    This sounds weird and is probably TMI, but I’d find him so much hotter as gay or bi than straight. He just doesn’t appeal to me personally, but the thought of him being gay gives me a little heat, LOL.

  31. Chrissy says:

    This made my day. I couldn’t stop giggling about Curly Fu and Peanut!

    Now, to all the ladies who are abhorrent about Benedict or as I used to call him alien lizard king, go watch Sherlock and you will take back every word you said. I finished both seasons last week and I am still eating up all my words. And thankfully, I can depend on Celebitchy to give me my daily dose of the Cumberbatch!

  32. MissThing says:

    He has to be seen and heard, in full motion is how he captures your attention. He is also a superb actor. The more of his work I see, the more impressed I become. I just finished watching Small Favour and damn… Also, Bloody-batch should not be such a turn on.

  33. Yelly says:

    Why do people keep insisting he’s sexy?